Germany celebrates 30 years of reunification, but the gap between east and west lives on

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Economic, social and political inequalities still divide the country. Ceremonies without pomp for the pandemic.

The two Germanies were officially united in one day, on October 3, 1990, exactly 30 years ago. But reunification is far from being a fact: the rise of the extreme right, economic differences, and even the uneven impact of the coronavirus can only be explained by talking about that wall.

Germany celebrated the reunification anniversary this Saturday with discreet ceremonies for the pandemic, but with calls for unity by the government.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier participated in the main event in the city of Potsdam, neighboring Berlin.

“Thirty years after reunification, the world is not necessarily more peaceful,” admitted the head of government. That is why “courage” is necessary again to advance on the path of peace, she remarked.

“We know that today we must be brave again. Brave to travel new paths because of the pandemic. Brave to really overcome the differences that persist between east and west. But also brave to work for the cohesion of our entire society,” he argued Merkel.

The persistent thesis economic, social and political inequalities between east and west, despite three decades of integration effort and billions in cohesion, are widely shared: from the long-term unemployed in Magdeburg to the banker in Frankfurt, through the vast majority of the political spectrum, to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the post-communists of the Left at the head, and including Merkel, the first German chancellor from the former Democratic Republic (GDR).

“We have achieved a lot in these 30 years. We have clearly managed to reduce the differences in the standard of living between East and West. But structural differences persist. More efforts are needed. Because reunification is not a completed task, but an ongoing process. “, assured this week the chancellor.

The data prove him right. According to the report “30 Years of Reunification Germany” by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), the wealth of families is more than double in the west than in the east (182,000 euros on average compared to 88,000 euros), while the percentage of people at risk of poverty in the east is almost 18% compared to 15% in the west.

The six “new federal states”, those from the former GDR (with the exception of Berlin, due to its capital status), contribute less to the economy, export significantly less, have lower wages, lower pensions, and an older and more rural population, with more overweight problems and greater dependency needs. Furthermore, their families are smaller and their mothers, on average, younger.

The shadow of the wall is perceptible even in football. Of the 18 teams that make up the first division of the Bundesliga only three are from the former east. And you could put several asterisks to this statement: two are from Berlin (one of them recently promoted) and the third, the RB Leipzig, only reached the top category after it was acquired by foreign capital.

Even in the pandemic the differences are significant. The coronavirus has had a clearly lower incidence in the eastern “Länder”. Perhaps because of those fewer commercial ties with abroad, because with less available money you can travel less or because the east is less densely populated.

At one extreme are Mecklenburg-Antepomerania and Saxony-Anhalt, both in the east, which have accumulated 75.8 and 121.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants since the beginning of the pandemic. At the other extreme are Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, the western “Länder”, with 529.1 and 453.9, respectively.

The differences are also perceptible in the political sphere. The two parties at the extremes of the political spectrum, AfD and La Izquierda, do better in the east, where disaffection with the system is greatest for economic, social and demographic reasons.

Meanwhile, the formations around the political center, conservatives and social democrats, but also liberals and greens, score better in the west.

Comparing the results of the last regional elections in the 16 federal states of the country, far-right and xenophobic AfD has registered remarkable results in the east (between 27.5% in Saxony and 20.8% in Mecklenburg-Antepomerania; and the exception of Berlin, 14.2%) and generally discrete data in the west (between 5.9 in Schleswig-Holstein and 15 , 1% from Baden-Württemberg).

Differences in politics reach the most fundamental questions. The latest “Deutschlandtrend” survey shows that 68% of West Germans are satisfied or very satisfied with democracy in their country, while only 50% of East Germans express themselves this way.


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